Sunday, August 3, 2014

Quite a Decade

I have an imaginary friend, you might say, an alter ego. She knows everything about me but sometimes she forgets or gets muddled so I go over things. This starts with a note I wrote to her in the spring of 2014 to clear up some thoughts on my medical issues.

Spring 2014
Dear Sister Helen Joseph:

So, it’s been quite the decade, hasn’t it? In 2004 I went home, back to Maine, to die but I lived and had to make other plans.

Then in the spring of 2014, there was no announcement. No life changing statement. No bang. No whimper. As I was folding clothes in the living room one day, it came over me like sunlight emerging from behind a cloud. I’m healthy. There is nothing to look up for that.

There was that time in 1996 when my gynecologist told me in the post-surgical visit, “It’s healing very nicely, but unfortunately you’ll need more treatment.” I bought the Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Cancer Book on my way home. There was the day a few years later when my oncologist told me, “You did everything we asked. There is no reason for you to be here, except that you do have cancer again.”

There was even the time a few years after that when nervous shaking and rapid weight loss sent me to Web-MD. The same oncologist sent me to a thyroid specialist for Graves Disease. When my knees ached, I took ibuprofen and then prescription dose Naproxen. When my left knee started to buckle out from under me, my new orthopedic surgeon told me, “They’re both bad enough to replace.” One surgery and I got two new titanium joints.

Now in 2014, ten years after I went home to Maine and many years after the beginning of my medical times, I realize I’m still here. I thought I would continue to add to my growing list of ailments – high cholesterol, allergy induced asthma, and pre-diabetes which I call pretend diabetes. I thought all this only went one way. Now I realize these things are still here, but they’re under control. I don’t have to plan around them.

After more than ten years, I don’t take any more cancer drugs. Not Tamoxifen, not Arimidex. I out grew them or outlived their necessity. I still sneeze during grass pollen season and in Indian restaurants, but I don’t need drugs all year for that. My thyroid evened out and so did I. Even the anti-anxiety, the anti-depressants, and the pro-sleep drugs haven’t been necessary anymore.

Have I outgrown these at sixty five? My Medicare plan would have covered all of them, but my new primary care physician, didn’t prescribe anything. I left my annual physical thinking, “When do I go back? Next year?”

I don’t have to see a thyroid doctor in a matter of weeks or an oncologist in six months. I didn’t hear whether I should see my primary care in three months or six months. Even the results of my mammogram came back with a section highlighted in yellow. No abnormal findings. No evidence of disease.

So that’s settled. With no treatment plan, nothing to research, I’m free to acknowledge whatever went wrong before, while looking ahead. I’ve earned the capacity to plan for myself.

Love, Honey

P.S. My doctor’s office called to schedule my six month visit to monitor my diabetes. I thought of explaining it is only pretend, but decided to go along.

P.P.S. That went well, I thought, but now my next visit is in three months. This diabetes thing could be time consuming especially if I actually take up exercise and I will. I bet I do everything they ask.

July 2014
Dear Sister Helen Joseph:

Back to Pyramid. Then & now comparisons are looming large. When I first came here in 1996, I was so anxious. What if something happens to the car? Or if I don’t have enough clothes or the right clothes? All around general anxiety. What if I’m not good enough at this?

The X was, if not the cause, the instigator of much of my anxiety. I’d always be afraid I’d have to deal with him, really his anxiety or his anger. With the kids, it’s different. We all loved each other then. We all love each other now. Sure that glosses over much, but it’s also true.

In 1996 I was searching. In 2014, I’m found. Back then I did not have as many friends certainly not as many true heartfelt friends and I had no writing community.  Yeah, in 2014, I’m found. I am somebody. I’m Ellie O’Leary, the writer. Let’s deal with that, shall we?

Love, Honey

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Dear Sister Helen Joseph,

You’ve been critical lately but I can handle it. I’m in a good place – no, really. I’m not talking euphemisms again. I’m at Pyramid. I’m in a good place, better than good. I’m at my renewal place. OK. I’m also in a good place mentally and physically.

I’m looking forward – not back. I like where I live so I have no homeless, pity party attitude. I look forward to staying there indefinitely. My writing is going extremely well. I submit all the time. Always have something out there. So far this year I have published one essay and have one essay and one poem accepted for publication. I still have my CNF Memoir contest submission in progress as well as The Rattle Poetry contest. So far I’ve “won” subscriptions. That’s the kind of attitude I have now. I enter contests, I get subscriptions, so I won subscriptions.

It’s good to be a winner. Don’t be critical of me.

Love, Honey

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Dear Sister Helen Joseph,

Yes, I guess that is what I am saying. I’ve outgrown Pyramid, but don’t tell anyone because I have not outgrown Pyramid. I never have – I never will. The sisterhood, the comraderies, the support. I’ll always benefit from that. It would be my loss if I got so high on myself that I gave it up.

What I mean is I am way past the anxiety I carried with me in the early years. Also, between all the learning I have gained here plus all . . . .

I’m on retreat. I don’t have time for this now.

Love, Honey.

late July 2014
Dear Sister Helen Joseph,

I’m home. Cat’s gone. Girlfriend took off.

Love, Honey

August 1 2014
Dear Sister Helen Joseph,

No, I did not.

Love, Honey


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